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Outbreak at Harbor Hill with seven testing positive for COVID-19

Shah says more vaccine still needed
By Fran Gonzalez | Feb 04, 2021
Source: File photo

Augusta — A new COVID-19 outbreak was announced Thursday, Feb. 4, at the Harbor Hill Center in Belfast, where state health officials reported four people have tested positive at today's press briefing. After the briefing, Dr. Richard Feifer, chief medical officer at GenesisHealth, which runs Harbor Hill, told The Republican Journal that, in fact, seven people associated with the facility had contracted COVID-19

Feifer said in an email to The Republican Journal on Thursday that Harbor Hill has had four residents and three staff members test positive for COVID-19, and that the outbreak started Jan. 22.

"During this pandemic, we have been stringent with restrictions and a whole host of other precautions," he said. "As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began providing protocols and guidelines for the coronavirus, we have diligently followed them and in many cases, have gotten out in front of public health guidelines, adopting even more stringent infection precautions than were recommended at the time.

"We also continue to follow the direction of the Maine Department of Health in an effort to contain and minimize the spread of the virus," Feifer said.

Some of the steps taken at Harbor Hill include screening residents and patients for symptoms daily; actively screening and taking temperatures of all staff upon building entry; visitation restrictions; requiring all staff to wear personal protective equipment; and enabling families and loved ones to perform video conferencing calls using Zoom technology.

This news comes a week after an outbreak was reported at the Crossroads to Calvary Apostolic Church in Morrill, where 23 people have contracted the disease. When asked if there was any updated information on this outbreak, Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said no additional cases have been reported.

Three people have died across the state because of COVID-19 since yesterday. One was a resident of Kennebec County, one a resident of Washington County, and one a resident of York County. Two of the people who died were women, while one was a man. One was in their 70s, and two were 80 or older.

Shah said 10 additional deaths were reported yesterday, eight of which were because of a review of vital records and may have occurred within the last several weeks.

In all, this brings the total number of COVID-19 related deaths in Maine to 630. Currently there are 145 people hospitalized across the state, down from 157 Feb. 2, with 46 in intensive care units and 22 on ventilators. As of today, there are 82 critical care beds available out of a total of 398.

The seven-day positivity rate for PCR tests is 2.95% and the testing volume is 701 people for every 100,000 residents in Maine.

In Waldo County, 23 people are hospitalized with the disease, and the county has an overall total of 528 COVID-19 cases.

Speaking on vaccinations, a total of 167,111 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across the state, Shah said. This represents an increase of 9,040 since the last news briefing on Tuesday. Of this total, 123,683 people had their first dose and 43,428 had their second.

For next week, Maine is scheduled to receive 21,475 doses, which Shah said is an increase of 1,100 vaccines.

Gov. Janet Mills outlined her concerns regarding the upcoming Super Bowl next Sunday, saying there is an elevated risk of people gathering to view the event. "As tempting as it is to watch the game at your favorite watering hole..." she said, "the virus could ruin your game," and recommended watching safely at home.

Mills recognized four health care "superheroes" whom she chose at random to receive an all-expense-paid trip to Super Bowl LV in Tampa. The Kraft family gave New England’s governors, including Mills, four tickets each to give to health care workers.

Joe Looper, Emergency Department nurse at Mercy Hospital, Cathy Bean, manager of clinical and community health services Northern Light Home Care & Hospice, Lisa Ireland, registered nurse at RiverRidge Center, and Patrick Keaney, pulmonary physician at Mid Coast Hospital, will fly to the Super Bowl in the Patriots team plane from Logan Airport in Boston on Sunday.

Two mass vaccination sites have opened recently, one at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor and another at the former Scarborough Downs. Shah said an additional site located in the Sanford area is expected to come online shortly. Other sites in Lewiston/Auburn, Augusta and in the Portland area are being considered, Shah said, to maximize the higher volume of vaccine.

"The bottom line is we still need more vaccines coming into the state," he said.

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